Deirdre Reilly: Just say no to bad parenting
Lately, teen stars have been falling very publicly from grace. If you are a parent, that may not matter at all, or it may matter quite a bit, depending on how much you have let these celebrity teens, and other forms of pop culture, influence your own child in your home.
Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), a 15-year-old, poses in Vanity Fair in a provocative pose. Britney Spears is trying to pull her young, train-wrecked life together, her 15-year-old sister is pregnant and Lindsay Lohan continues to party. Abercrombie and Fitch has an ad showing a young guy pulling at a young girl’s bra, and teen show “Gossip Girl” had a recent ad campaign showing a blurred image of two teens in the throes of passion with just the letters “OMFG.” The new “Grand Theft Auto” video game is set to post record sales.
These are the wolves you are releasing your kids’ minds to – and they are confident wolves – always hungry for the teen mind and the teen dollar, and stalking your child through their TV, iPod, movie dollars and cell phone. The only thing that stands between this type of modern mental pop slavery and your beloved child is you.
I don’t actually blame the celebrities I mentioned – especially the teen celebrities. They have been raised performing and have been deprived of the balancing stages of childhood for a very long time. No one has told them “no” for so long that the word itself must seem foreign to them when they hear it, and their parents all have issues. Have you seen these girls’ mothers? Jeans low on the hips, normally graying hair long and sleek, breasts crammed into tiny tops reminiscent of their daughters’ clothes, cell phone and coffee clutched in manicured nails. As for the “idea people,” the television programmers and ad execs that come up with jewels like “OMFG,” they have jobs because we are quiet. We have decided to give them our children.
It’s really as simple as this: We are failing to parent. Parents are selling their own children’s souls to get more time to work, to play or simply to deal with fatigue and a malaise that is racing through society. (Ironically, this malaise is partly because of an increasingly value-less society.) Have you seen the numbers on how many anti-depressant prescriptions are written each year? Scary.
It is easier to just … not deal. Not deal with the bad influences attacking your child’s heart and mind every day that you don’t step in. It would take time to listen to the lyrics of the rap CD your 10-year-old loves, and it might start a fight, God forbid. It would take energy to tell your 14-year-old to change her clothes before she goes to school – you can see her belly button and every contour of her young body, but you’re busy and tired and her girlfriends are all wearing it; some of their mothers are your friends. You don’t want to start anything.
Why not? Isn’t your kid worth it? Sometimes it’s not whether the battle is won that’s important, but whether it is fought. Refusing to purchase any Abercrombie and Fitch items or rap CDs or violent video games will not shut down stores or halt production, you can count on that. But the time you spend saying no to the blatantly bad – whether you are saying it, texting it or even yelling it to your kids -- will stay with them for a long time. Yeah, they might hate you. Welcome to true parenting – for some extended periods of time, if you are not hated by your teen, you aren’t doing it right.
Explain your stance and how this relates to how important they are to you; why they are worth it. You are the boss, and you are the gatekeeper. Explain why they are more important than fitting in, and more important than dropping out of the parenting process. And maybe a few parents refusing to purchase this bad, dreary, monochromatic stuff won’t change anything, but millions of parents waking up from their “parent-as-best-friend” slumber would.
The tiredness you feel from that argument with your child when you first say no is going to be a different tiredness than you feel when you give up by looking away – it is a victorious tiredness that comes to every fighter who is on the side of right. And I’m not going to say that everyone will change with you – you may be doing it alone. You may lose a friend or two when your house rules change – so what. But your new involved way of life with your child makes all other things pale anyway – the power of “No, because I love you” is amazing.
Go look at your child right now, right this minute, through your new eyes. Bring passion to the process! Just go in and look at this person who came from you and moves through your life and, believe it or not, will pass on into their own adulthood. Don’t give them up to the marketers and programmers and evil content based on hopelessness, hate and confusion. Give them the strongest form of love from a parent. Guard that gate. You signed up for it. And enjoy waking up to your own life!
You can connect with Deirdre at www.exhaustedrapunzel.com.